July 11 1972 was the first day of the World Chess Championship in Reykjavik. The defending champion, Russian Boris Spassky, was pitted against his controversial challenger, American Bobby Fischer. It was a face-off between two equally charismatic and yet completely different types of players: Spassky, with his savoir faire, versus Fischer, with his near-psychotic eccentricities. But what the world saw –and the reason the game was quickly billed the “match of the century”– was not only a contest between two of the greatest chess players of all time, but a final, head-to-head face-off between communism and capitalism after more than twenty-five years of the Cold War.
Two chess players stood at the epicenter of nuclear warfare. Never before had thirty-two pieces on an eight-by-eight board generated such intense hype.